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Thanking the Academy: 2013 Oscar predictions

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It's that time again, time for the Hollywood elite to roll out the red carpet and give themselves a few pats on the back. That's right - it's the Academy Awards.

As someone who spends a lot of time at the movies, this is one of my favorite times of the year. Awards such as the Oscars are great because they inspire conversation who do you think will win, who do you think should win, which movies did you see, which movies did you like, which did you hate and on and on and on.

So I'm once more putting my prognostication skills on the line. These are my picks for some of the big awards come Sunday night. Again, these aren't necessarily the people and films that I think should win. They're the ones I think will win. Sometimes, they're the same. More often, they're not.

Here are my Oscar predictions for 2013, with a few thoughts thrown in for good measure. Am I right? Who knows? My wife has outpredicted me the past two years it's impossible to know how the Academy will vote. And really, isn't that what makes it fun?

Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Bradley Cooper 'Silver Linings Playbook'
  • Daniel Day-Lewis 'Lincoln'
  • Hugh Jackman 'Les Miserables'
  • Joaquin Phoenix 'The Master'
  • Denzel Washington 'Flight'

There's no disputing that there are some phenomenal performances in this category this year. And unlike some recent years, every name on the list is recognizable to even the most casual of movie fans. Joaquin Phoenix opened some eyes with his work in 'The Master,' but his vocal dismissal of the very idea of film awards likely negates his chances. Hugh Jackman put his mouth where the money was, singing his way through the epic that was 'Les Mis;' it was a strong performance that nevertheless will likely come up a bit short. Denzel Washington offered up another exquisitely flawed character as the alcoholic in 'Flight;' nobody does inner demons quite like Denzel. Bradley Cooper showed that he's far more than just another pretty face, offering up a nuanced portrayal of a deeply damaged young man seeking happiness in 'Silver Linings Playbook.' Unfortunately for all of these wonderful actors, there's likely no stopping the Great Emancipator. Daniel Day-Lewis has put together yet another unbelievable performance, fully inhabiting a legendary American figure with his typical power and gravitas. Look for Day-Lewis to become the first man in Hollywood history to win three Best Actor trophies.

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis 'Lincoln'

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Tommy Lee Jones 'Lincoln'
  • Christoph Waltz 'Django Unchained'
  • Robert DeNiro 'Silver Linings Playbook'
  • Alan Arkin 'Argo'
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman 'The Master'

This might be the most competitive of all of the acting categories. Here we have five outstanding performances, all by actors who already have at least one Oscar-winning role on their resumes. Philip Seymour Hoffman had some early buzz for his performance as a charismatic cult leader in 'The Master,' but he has fallen off the radar for many voters. Arkin's portrayal of a Hollywood producer in 'Argo' lent some wonderful levity to that film and it is definitely on the rise in general but he likely comes up short. DeNiro's performance in 'SLP' was wonderful in that it hearkened back to the days before all he did was 'Analyze the Fokkers' and cash checks; it's easily the best we've seen from him in the past 15 or 20 years. However, this boils down to a two-man race: Christoph Waltz already has one Oscar courtesy of a Tarantino movie; he's a great talent who 'gets' Quentin like few others ever have. And Tommy Lee Jones's Thaddeus Stevens was a dourly masterful counterpoint to Day-Lewis's Lincoln. To my mind, it's more or less a coin flip. Jones is a slight favorite, but Waltz's idiosyncratic performance could well come out on top. All else being equal, go with the performance you enjoyed the most for me, that's Waltz.

Winner: Christoph Waltz Django Unchained

Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Jessica Chastain 'Zero Dark Thirty'
  • Jennifer Lawrence 'Silver Linings Playbook'
  • Emmanuelle Riva 'Amour'
  • Quvenzhane Wallis 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
  • Naomi Watts 'The Impossible'

There's a lot of history tied up in the nominations for this category. However, that historicity will come to an end when the trophy is finally handed out. At nine years old, Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee for 'Beasts;' she was all of six when she landed the part. Meanwhile, Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest actress ever nominated in this category she turns 86 on the day of the ceremony. Neither will win, although Riva has been getting some too-little-too-late love in recent days. Naomi Watts gave an outstanding performance in 'The Impossible,' but she suffers due to the fact that the film was little-seen; she just hasn't been able to build any sort of buzz. Jessica Chastain was getting some early accolades for 'Zero Dark Thirty' she was even the favorite in this category for a stretch but has since come back down to Earth. While the film was excellent, at its core it was basically a procedural; Chastain was strong, but there are plenty of actresses who could have done equal justice to the role. To my mind, this award is Jennifer Lawrence's to lose; to find a way to convey such quirky heartbreak in a genuine and meaningful way is no easy task. And to find a way to stand out in a film absolutely packed with dynamite performances is just as impressive.

Winner: Jennifer Lawrence 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Amy Adams 'The Master'
  • Sally Field 'Lincoln'
  • Anne Hathaway 'Les Miserables'
  • Helen Hunt 'The Sessions'
  • Jacki Weaver 'Silver Linings Playbook'

This was not the year to bring your best Supporting Actress work to the table. Don't get me wrong; there has been some great work. Amy Adams flashed her versatility in 'The Master' she has as wide a range as any actress in Hollywood and this is her fourth Oscar nomination. Jacki Weaver is nominated for the second time in three years for her work in 'Silver Linings Playbook,' adding another subtly brilliant performance to that film's embarrassment of acting riches. Helen Hunt tossed off the best performance we've seen from her in years with her work in 'The Sessions;' it was a nice to see her again after a greatly diminished Hollywood presence over the past decade. Sally Field is another one who has been away from Hollywood for a while; her portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln is a reminder of just how incredible an actress she is. And yet it doesn't matter. This one is wire-to-wire. Anne Hathaway has been the prohibitive favorite to win this category since 'Les Miserables' opened and nothing has happened to change that. This might be the biggest slam dunk of the entire ceremony bigger even than Daniel Day-Lewis. It won't be close.

Winner: Anne Hathaway 'Les Miserables'

Best Director
  • Michael Haneke 'Amour'
  • Benh Zeitlin 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
  • Ang Lee 'Life of Pi'
  • Steven Spielberg 'Lincoln'
  • David O. Russell 'Silver Linings Playbook'

In many ways, the story of this category springs not from the list of nominees, but rather those who were left off the list. To most, the most egregious omission is Ben Affleck for 'Argo,' but arguments have also been made with regards to Quentin Tarantino for 'Django Unchained,' Kathryn Bigelow for 'Zero Dark Thirty' and Tom Hooper for 'Les Miserables.' Of course, the actual nominees are certainly deserving of the honor. As far as actually winning? Haneke and Zeitlin definitely fall into the 'just happy to be nominated' category as do their films. That's no insult; they deserve to be here. They just don't deserve to win. Russell coaxed a bevy of brilliant performances from his actors he's got nominees in every acting category. However, 'SLP' just doesn't have the sort of grand gravitas to take home this award. Ang Lee's direction might have been the best part of 'Life of Pi;' he used CGI and 3D technology to create a visually stunning film and build a brand-new method of storytelling. But there's no stopping Spielberg in this category; he's an Academy darling with seven nominations and two wins. And 'Lincoln' gives the voters a chance to reward him that his most recent work hasn't quite managed. 

Winner: Steven Spielberg 'Lincoln'

Best Picture
  • 'Amour'
  • 'Argo'
  • 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
  • 'Django Unchained'
  • 'Les Miserables'
  • 'Life of Pi'
  • 'Lincoln'
  • 'Silver Linings Playbook'
  • 'Zero Dark Thirty'

There are those who argue that the 2009 expansion of the Best Picture category from five nominees to as many as 10 has watered down the process. I am not one of them; I love the fact that more quality films can now be celebrated with an Academy Award nomination. Of course, the expanded field also makes it easier to pick out the movies that simply won't win.

'Amour' would need a particularly weak field to be considered a contender. Mind you, that's no condemnation of the film's quality, but rather an understanding that the Academy is historically reluctant to anoint a non-English-speaking film as Best Picture. 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is an indie darling, but came out a little too long ago and simply doesn't have the publicity machine behind it necessary to break through in this kind of competition. 'Zero Dark Thirty' suffers from a bit of negative publicity mixed with the fact that the director/writer combination of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal just won the award back in 2009 for 'The Hurt Locker.' 'Django Unchained' is hurt by the controversial nature of both its subject matter and its writer-director. You always get the impression that the Academy isn't quite sure what to make of Quentin Tarantino and they don't want to encourage him.

That brings us down to five. 'Les Miserables' is the next to go; despite racking up a number of award nominations, the musical adaptation seems to be viewed as a bit of a disappointment by critics and customers alike. It was doomed by unmet (and probably unreasonable) expectations. 'Life of Pi' was cinema that was beautiful to look at; it showed just what today's technological advances are capable in the hands of a gifted director. Unfortunately, the story being told was a little too light in the end, the nomination is deserved, but a victory is not. In other years, 'Silver Linings Playbook' could easily be a major contender for this award. Unfortunately, it has run into the buzzsaw of history. It is a great movie with outstanding performances, but it simply isn't enough. This is not the year for what is essentially a romantic comedy an admittedly brilliant one, but a romantic comedy nonetheless to win Best Picture.

Which leaves us with 'Lincoln' and 'Argo.' Two months ago, this wouldn't have even been a question. By all accounts, 'Lincoln' had this prize sewed up. But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation 'Argo' started to build momentum. It started winning awards hand over fist both for Best Picture and for director Ben Affleck. The pendulum has swung. My guess is that the Academy acknowledges the mistake it made by omitting Affleck from the Best Director list an omission which was likely the best thing that could have happened both to him and to 'Argo' and hands him the big one. 'Lincoln' is no less deserving a winner now than it was two months ago, but that's the nature of the beast. The vote will likely be close, and it wouldn't be a shock to see 'Lincoln' win, but for my money, 'Argo' will take home the hardware.

Winner: 'Argo'

Best Animated Feature
  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-It Ralph

Animated movies have gradually been becoming more and more sophisticated over the past few years. The end result is usually a solid selection of nominees in this category. 'The Pirates!' was well-received, but ultimately fairly forgettable. 'ParaNorman' was sweetly spooky, but so too was 'Frankenweenie' and you simply aren't going to out cutesy-spook Tim Burton. Still, this is pretty much a two-horse race. The folks at Pixar tend to have a stranglehold on this category and 'Brave' could continue that trend, although the film wasn't as critically lauded as the studio's fare usually is. Disney Animation's 'Wreck-It Ralph' ventured into the world of video games and produced a smart and savvy trip for young kids and nostalgia seekers alike. It's hard to pick against Pixar, but 'Wreck-It Ralph' is just that good.

Winner: Wreck-It Ralph

Best Original Screenplay
  • Michael Haneke - Amour
  • Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained 
  • John Gatins Flight
  • Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola - Moonrise Kingdom
  • Mark Boal - Zero Dark Thirty

There's a wide-ranging wealth of particularly deserving candidates in this category. Haneke has an uphill battle; foreign language films historically tend to fall short for this award only a handful have ever won and this is a strong year in the category. 'Flight' just hasn't been generating a lot of buzz except for Denzel Washington's performance - so Gatins shouldn't expect to hear his name called. Wes Anderson is going to get his Oscar eventually, but despite being some of his best work (along with Roman Coppola), 'Moonrise Kingdom' doesn't quite make the cut. Mark Boal, on the other hand, has already won big for 'The Hurt Locker.' His script for 'Zero Dark Thirty' has been on the receiving end of just as much attention in fact, he would seem to be the favorite. However, Tarantino is long overdue for a win in this category and this is the most likely place for 'Django' to get recognition. It would be a mild upset, but look for him to take to the stage to accept his second Oscar. 

Winner: Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Chris Terrio - Argo
  • Lucy Alibar and Ben Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • David Magee - Life of Pi 
  • Tony Kushner - Lincoln 
  • David O. Russell - Silver Linings Playbook

This is another category when the field is essentially being trampled by the front-runners. Alibar and Zeitlin are likely just happy to be invited to the party, which is a good thing they've approximately zero chance of winning. 'Silver Linings Playbook' is an example of the really good movie that isn't quite good enough to get over the hump; Russell deserves this nomination but the film probably doesn't deserve a win. Ditto David Magee, whose screenplay efforts were excellent, but still completely overwhelmed and superseded by the stunning visual aesthetic of the film. 'Life of Pi' basically remaindered the screenplay to the back burner in many ways. This leaves us with this year's two Oscar juggernauts 'Argo' and 'Lincoln.' There's a good chance that Terrio rides the current wave of good feelings about his film to victory, and that would be just fine it's a strong and compelling script. However, there's something about the idea of a Pulitzer Prize winner like Kushner winning an Oscar for adapting the work of another Pulitzer Prize winner (historian Doris Kearns Goodwin). Either could easily win call it Kushner in a coin flip.

Winner: Tony Kushner Lincoln


Quick Picks

Best Animated Feature

  • 'Brave'
  • 'Frankenweenie'
  • 'ParaNorman'
  • 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'
  • 'Wreck-It Ralph'

Winner: 'Wreck-It Ralph'

Best Original Screenplay

  • Michael Haneke 'Amour'
  • Quentin Tarantino 'Django Unchained '
  • John Gatins 'Flight'
  • Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola 'Moonrise Kingdom'
  • Mark Boal 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Winner: Quentin Tarantino 'Django Unchained'

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Chris Terrio 'Argo'
  • Lucy Alibar and Ben Zeitlin 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
  • David Magee 'Life of Pi' 
  • Tony Kushner 'Lincoln'
  • David O. Russell 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Winner: Tony Kushner 'Lincoln'

Last modified on Friday, 22 February 2013 08:00


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